If you’ve ever experienced pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands you’re not alone. Carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common cause of loss of function and pain in peripheral nerves due to chronic compression, otherwise known as entrapment neuropathy. Luckily, there are several ways to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome so you can get back to living your life on your terms.
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, one of the major nerves of your hand, becomes compressed. This compression restricts blood flow to this essential nerve. In turn, this causes pain, numbness, and tingling of the hand, wrist, and arm.
Some of the causes of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Repetitive hand use
- Wrist injuries
- Fluid retention
- Inflammation of the tendons in the wrist and hand
How is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosed?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed using a variety of exams and tests. Some of these include:
- Health History
Your physician gathers your medical history to look at your specific risk factors and gains a clear picture of your current health status.
- Physical Examination
A thorough exam is completed along with a series of physical tests to assess nerve damage, muscle loss, and weakness. In addition, your level of numbness, tingling, and pain can also be examined during this process. Your specific symptoms are a factor in diagnosis.
- Electrodiagnostic Studies (EDS)
EDS include nerve conduction and electromyogram. These show how fast your median nerve can send a signal and if the muscles are also affected. EDS are considered the gold standard for diagnosing carpal tunnel syndrome.
While ultrasound can be used to diagnose carpal tunnel, it is not as complete as EDS and requires an experienced technician to complete.
Tips to Avoid Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Some things you can do to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome all together are things such as:
- Modify your workstation for a more ergonomic environment for your hands and wrists.
- Practice nerve gliding stretches to improve mobility and restore mobilization.
- Watch your diet and nutrition as vitamin deficiencies can contribute to the development of carpal tunnel syndrome or increase the severity of symptoms. There are a few essential deficiencies to keep in mind.
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
7 Ways to Ease Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Without Surgery
- Soaking in warm water can help with pain relief. After soaking your wrist in warm water for 10 minutes, gently flex your hand and wrist. Repeat this three to four times daily for optimum results.
- Use a wrist splint. This keeps you from overextending or flexing your wrist throughout the day and/or at night. Try splinting for four to six weeks to achieve results.
- Deficiencies in vitamins C, D, B6, and B12 are common amongst those with carpal tunnel syndrome. A blood test will determine if you have a specific deficiency, but there is no harm in taking all 4 vitamin supplements without a blood test. Try taking these vitamin supplements for 2-3 months to see if that improves symptoms. If you don’t achieve relief let your doctor know that you’ve tried these supplements, which will help in developing their treatment plan.
- Try taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) drug such as ibuprofen to relieve pain. It’s important to note that you should consult with your doctor before taking an NSAID to rule out any possible complications or risks.
- Discomfort while sleeping can be relieved by hanging your hand over the side of the bed to increase the blood flow.
- Corticosteroid injections reduce swelling and inflammation, which relieves pressure on the median nerve.
- Physical therapy can also help to reduce swelling and stiffness.
These treatments tend to help those with mild to moderate symptoms who’ve been experiencing them for less than ten months. If these methods don’t reduce your discomfort in a few weeks, you should consider seeing a hand surgeon. This orthopedic specialist will discuss your specific condition, complete a thorough examination, and discuss with you if you’re a good candidate for surgical treatments.
When Should I See A Hand Surgeon for My Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it may be time to make an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon.
- Loss of grip strength
- Loss of hand coordination
- Waking from sleep two to three times per week with pain or tingling in your hands or arms.
- Inability to drive a car, use a phone or computer, or complete your other activities of daily living without pain.
In most cases, these symptoms appear gradually and may even come and go. But if they persist or worsen, it’s important you see a hand surgeon as soon as possible. The key here is not waiting too long because permanent complications can develop.
Some signs you may experience when you’ve waited too long to see a hand surgeon include:
- Constant numbness and tingling that doesn’t go away
- Loss of strength and coordination
- Symptoms lasting more than one year
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Surgical Treatments
When non-surgical treatments are ineffective, your doctor will help you decide if surgical options are right for you. Some of these surgical options include:
- Mini-incision Carpal Tunnel Release
This technique allows you to use your hand the same day as the surgery and provides direct visualization of the nerve yielding the highest successful outcomes. All in all, this technique provides the best of both options, high success rate, low complication rate, and immediate use of hand after the procedure.
- Endoscopic Surgery
During this procedure, small incisions are made on the wrist and palm to visualize and cut the carpal ligament. Although this technique causes less post-operative discomfort and provides a faster recovery time, it also carries the highest risk of complications of all techniques.
- Open Release Surgery
This is a traditional procedure in which a wrist incision is made to cut the carpal ligament and enlarge the carpal tunnel.
Risks of Ignoring the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
If you choose to put off treatment for your symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or ignore them altogether, you’re risking serious, even permanent complications. Some of these include:
- If the nerve in the hand is compressed long enough, the muscle atrophies and the nerve damage becomes permanent. This means you actually lose muscle and cause permanent damage at the same time.
- Permanent loss of sensation
- Loss of coordination
- Loss of grip strength
Are You Affected by the Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
If you find yourself experiencing any symptoms we’ve discussed above and they’re not easing up with the at-home treatments, it’s important to make an appointment with a hand surgeon for a diagnosis and treatment plan that can get you on track to healing your hand and wrist.
If you’re local to the Phoenix area, you can make an appointment online with me, Dr. Vella, to discuss treatment options unique to you. You can also feel free to give our office a call at (602) 393-4263 to schedule your consultation. I specialize in providing customized, compassionate care that gets you back to feeling your absolute best both quickly and effectively.